When celebrities die, news networks often feature round the clock memorials, and social media abound with heartfelt messages from fans the celeb didn’t know personally. How often have you seen a photo of a teary-eyed fan placing flowers at a makeshift memorial in a spot related to the celeb? Such is the nature of pop culture.
Yet when a soldier is killed there’s little populist fanfare. As news cycles focused on the deaths of two entertainment artists this week, little populist fanfare surrounded the death of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, 55, who had deployed to Afghanistan in January.
There were numerous write-ups in print and on the Web, and networks did announce Greene’s death. He had served in the U.S. Army for more than 3 decades. The U.S. military has given scant details on his death, but an account published in The Afghanistan Sun is more specific:
“In a major military setback to the United States in Afghanistan, an American major general was killed Tuesday in an attack by an alleged Afghan soldier at an army training academy on the outskirts of Kabul, a coalition force official said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said a man dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on foreign troops at Marshal Fahim National Defense University, a training academy near Camp Qargha, a base west of Kabul.
The official said that about 15 people, including a German brigadier general and ‘a dozen’ Americans, were injured in the insider attack.”
The International Security Assistance Force, a coalition of member states, featured a tribute to Greene, absent details on his death. ISAF ordinarily doesn’t immediately specify home countries when soldiers are wounded or killed.
Insider deaths are believed to have declined, but as correspondents at the Long War Journal noted, ISAF considers those statistics “classified.”
In 2012 the Taliban encouraged recruits to infiltrate “the ranks of the enemy.” As of October, 2013, Long War Journal tallied known insider attacks:
“Since Jan. 1, 2008, there have been a total of 84 attacks, resulting in the deaths of 140 Coalition personnel and the wounding of 157 more. Deaths from insider attacks so far this year amount to nearly 10% of total Coalition casualties, down from a high of 15% last year, but significantly higher than the 6% in 2011. For more information, see LWJ special report, Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan: the data.”
Dignitaries based in Afghanistan, from both the United States government and their counterparts in Afghanistan’s government, attended a memorial for Greene in Kabul on Aug. 13.
A service for Greene was also held stateside, with burial at Arlington Cemetery. No high-ranking civilian officials were noted in attendance in various media accounts.
At the Kabul ceremony, Greene was described as “a national treasure.” The ISAF article about Greene said:
“The general would ask his personnel, ‘What have you done for your country today?’ When that question was asked, said Burkes, ‘no matter what you had done, it made you want to do more. His love for this mission and fellow soldiers was only surpassed by his love for family.’
Greene, who held one bachelor’s degree, four master’s degrees and one Ph.D., left a legacy in all the lives he touched and will always be treasured by his family who served as his anchor. He is survived by his wife, Susan Myers and their two children, U.S. Army 1LT Matthew Myers Greene, and Amelia Myers Greene.”
Susan Myers retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel.
Few of us would have the stamina as families to serve our country as the Greene family has. But it says a great deal about the influence of pop culture when a military officer of his stature is killed in cold blood, in a betrayal of the trust both Afghanistan and the U.S. have attempted to build, and populist response is tepid at best.
The assassin, allegedly a young man in his early 20s “dressed in an Afghan army uniform”, was shot dead at the training academy.
Featured Photo: Soldiers attended a memorial for Maj. Gen. Harold Greene in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: ISAF; By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg)
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Aug. 15, 2014)
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